When I commented on the New York Times doing a good job optimizing content (see The New York Times Flexes its SEO Muscle“, I didn’t expect the bashing that followed in the so-called “SEO world”. Some said the New York Times was cheating, some said spamming, and there were many nagative comments. I think one needs to view the source when reading such commentary… it seems odd to me that a competitive search optimizer would view the NYT successful efforts at search inclusion and indexing as cheating or spamming. Personally, I think it speaks more about the quality of the SEOs making such comments than anything else.
That said, this johnon.com blog is a simple, one-off personal blog. I don’t do much research for this bog, and I don’t edit posts beyond the quick draft -> review -> publish. I hardly ever hold a post in edit mode for more than an hour. It’s a personal blog. Mostly opinion, based on experience and personal observation. What you read here is not portrayed as fact; it’s JOHN writing ON topics that come up in my own practice of competitive webmastering and SEO.
I say this because there are so many others writing well on the same topics, sometimes influenced by opinion writers like me. I think Scott Karp did a great job over at Publishing 2.0, where he framed the issue with quotes from the New York Times’ financial statements. Scott discussed the publishing industry’s approach to Google, but inside he noted how the NYT was openly proud of their SEO efforts:
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times’ Q1 2007 earnings call:
As of March, the Times Company was the 12th most visited parent company on the web in the United States with 43.5 million unique visitors, up 12% from March of 2006, according to Nielsen NetRatings. Traffic growth has been accelerating as we optimize our website for search.
And here’s what New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger had to say about the importance of search at the recent New York Times shareholders meeting:
Moreover, About is having a powerful effect on our Company by providing NYT.com, Boston.com, IHT.com and our regional sites with critical, digital expertise. This includes optimizing content so that it is more visible to search engines, which leads to significant increases in traffic and thereby makes our online pages more profitable.
Thanks for the research, Scott, and the work put into to publishing such a good web site. We now see that being “the 12th most visited parent company on the web in the United States” is an claim to fame for the publisher of the New York Times. Raw traffic counts in that context. We also know that they are 12% up from a year ago, largely due to SEO efforts. And we know that increased exposure for archives leads to higher profits on the home page. All good to know. SEO works.
But Scott was the exception, as so many wrote that the NYT was “cheating” and “spamming”. Some even said that if you don’t do extra steps to comply with Google’s recommendations for web publishers, you are technically a spammer. I think that’s just plain wrong, and encourages Google’s bad-boy behavior. Such chatter casts an ugly shadow on the so-called SEO world.
Here’s an idea: maybe someday the world will recognize SEO as a competitive sport. Then whining about not winning will be branded as unsportsmanlike behavior, and maybe even worthy of a technical foul and penalty. The real SEOs will get a league of their own so they don’t have to suffer the wannabees so much, and the armchair quarterbacks can pay $130/month for a DigitalCable version of the SERPs, marked up with highlights of rankings, performance stats, and disabled lists. Split SEO into two parts: participants and spectators. For spectator sports, the entertainment side of competition belongs to the fans. The way we’re going, it seems that SEO is destined to become more like the WWF than the NBA. BUT, and here’s the dirty little secret… SEO is not about blogs and SEO websites. The real SEOs are already separate from the crowd of wannabees, the talking heads, and the high-profile spam reports. The real SEOs are already performance based and in a separate league. It’s the clients that need to catch up.